It’s no secret that we’re obsessed with happiness. After all, the “pursuit of happiness” is even enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. But happiness is fleeting. How can we find it and keep it alive?
Your happiness, or lack thereof, is rooted in your habits. Permanently adopting new habits — especially those that involve intangibles, such as how you see the world — is hard, but breaking the habits that make you unhappy is much easier.
- Immunity to awe.
Amazing things happen around you every day if you only know where to look. True awe is humbling. It reminds us that we’re not the center of the universe. Awe is also inspiring and full of wonder, underscoring the richness of life and our ability to both contribute to it and be captivated by it. It’s hard to be happy when you just shrug your shoulders every time you see something new.
- Isolating yourself.
Isolating yourself from social contact is a pretty common response to feeling unhappy, but there’s a large body of research that says it’s the worst thing you can do. This is a huge mistake, as socializing, even when you don’t enjoy it, is great for your mood. We all have those days when we just want to pull the covers over our heads and refuse to talk to anybody, but the moment this becomes a tendency, it destroys your mood. Recognize that when unhappiness is making you antisocial, you need to force yourself to get out there and mingle.
We need to feel in control of our lives in order to be happy, which is why blaming is so incompatible with happiness. When you blame other people or circumstances for the bad things that happen to you, you’ve decided that you have no control over your life, which is terrible for your mood.
It’s hard to be happy without feeling in control of your life, but you can take this too far in the other direction by making yourself unhappy through trying to control too much. Even if you can control someone in the short term, it usually requires pressure in the form of force or fear, and treating people this way won’t leave you feeling good about yourself.
Judging other people and speaking poorly of them is a lot like overindulging in a decadent dessert; it feels good while you’re doing it, but afterwards, you feel guilty and sick. Criticizing other people (even privately or to ourselves) is just a bad habit that’s intended to make us feel better about ourselves. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. It just creates a spiral of negativity.
Complaining is troubling, as well as the attitude that precedes it. Complaining is a self-reinforcing behavior. By constantly talking — and therefore thinking — about how bad things are, you reaffirm your negative beliefs. Beyond making you unhappy, complaining drives other people away.
Trying to impress other people is a source of unhappiness, because it doesn’t get to the source of what makes you happy — finding people who like you and accept you for who you are. All the things you acquire in the quest to impress people won’t make you happy either. When you make a habit of chasing things, you are likely to become unhappy because, beyond the disappointment you experience once you get them, you discover that you’ve gained them at the expense of the real things that can make you happy, such as friends, family, and taking good care of yourself.
Life won’t always go the way you want it to, but when it comes down to it, you have the same 24 hours in the day as everyone else. Instead of complaining about how things could have been or should have been, they reflect on everything they have to be grateful for. If you expect bad things, you’re more likely to get bad things. Force yourself to look at the facts, and you’ll see that things are not nearly as bad as they seem.
- Hanging around negative people.
Complainers and negative people are bad news because they wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. People often feel pressure to listen to complainers because they don’t want to be seen as callous or rude, but there’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spirals. You can avoid getting drawn in only by setting limits. A great way to set limits is to ask them how they intend to fix their problems.
- Comparing your own life to the lives people portray on social media.
The thing to remember about Facebook and social media in general is that they rarely represent reality. Social media provides an airbrushed, color-enhanced look at the lives people want to portray. We are not suggesting that you give up social media; just take it sparingly and with a grain of salt.
- Neglecting to set goals.
Having goals gives you hope and the ability to look forward to a better future, and working towards those goals makes you feel good about yourself and your abilities. It’s important to set goals that are challenging, specific (and measurable), and driven by your personal values. Without goals, instead of learning and improving yourself, you just plod along wondering why things never change.
- Giving in to fear.
Fear is nothing more than a lingering emotion that’s fueled by your imagination. When all is said and done, you will lament the chances you didn’t take far more than you will your failures. Don’t be afraid to take risks.
- Leaving the present.
Like fear, the past and the future are products of your mind. No amount of guilt can change the past, and no amount of anxiety can change the future. It’s impossible to reach your full potential if you’re constantly somewhere else, unable to fully embrace the reality (good or bad) of the very moment. To live in the moment, you must do two things:
1) Accept your past. If you don’t make peace with your past, it will never leave you and it will create your future.
2) Accept the uncertainty of the future, and don’t place unnecessary expectations upon yourself. Worry has no place in the here and now. As Mark Twain once said, “Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe.”
Bringing It All Together
We can’t control our genes, and we can’t control all of our circumstances, but we can rid ourselves of habits that serve no purpose other than to make us miserable.
We can also make good decisions regarding our security, health, life and future. The professionals at Goodwill Financial are always there to help you to make the best decision. Contact us!